In this exclusive Q&A Developmag.com talks amBX with Jo Cooke, Philips’ chief marketing officer (pictured) to find out what developers' reaction to the company's ambient experiences technology has been like.
Announced over a year ago and heading for a release this spring, Philips’ amBX system of peripherals intends to bring realistic environmental effects based on light, wind and rumble out of the screen and onto PC gamers’ desktops.
What may sound like a leftfield idea has already scored support from developers Gas Powered Games, Revolution, Codemasters, Introversion, rFactor, Kuju and Sumo Digital with more set to be announced in the near future.
Develop: Why did Philips chosen to start with gaming as the initial medium for its amBX technology?
Jo Cooke: Consumers of the games industry are already used to buying peripherals and we think that amBX can deliver a far more immersive gaming experience to them. At the moment the games industry is all about realism. We think that amBX actually helps with that because you don’t have to use realism – what we do is we create a sensory surround. By using the consumers senses you actually create a much more immersive experience by combining those senses together.
The other thing is its one way of bringing the game out of the constraints of the screen, which is where all the reality currently exists in gaming. The consumer then feels that rather than just looking at the screen, that the game is surrounding them.
The amBX technology is about giving the games developers the tools to be able to do that in the real world.
What has convinced developers to sign up to amBX?
Pretty much every time we showed it to someone they asked how they can get hold of it and when it will be available. I think it needs to be experienced in order for people to understand it, as soon as anyone sees it they understand the potential. And that’s what’s made developers really grasp it. It means that they’ve got another pallet of tools to work with, they can actually look at the room and say I’d actually like the screen to focus on one thing and the room to focus on another – they could give indications of what’s going to happen next in a game without it appearing on the screen.
There are just so many things that they can now do that just aren’t possible when your confined to a screen, and also the whole immersion aspect which we’re all striving to create, that ultimate gaming experience, amBX contributes a lot that nothing else can contribute.
The great thing about this industry is that the people creating the content are also the people consuming it - so when they see amBX they think what they would like to experience, and it makes them quite passionate about the different types of things that they would like to create in an amBX world. I think that’s why we get so much interest from the developers.
What are the advantages if a developer gets affiliated with amBX?
One thing we can’t offer today to a developer or publisher is an existing consumer user base, so what we want to be able to do is to say ‘work with us and be innovative and adopt this as a new technology so that your product is innovative, and the consumer will follow.’
In the meantime we can make sure that when we’re talking about amBX that we are also supporting our partners. In order for it to be a success we will need content, so we will include our partners in marketing campaigns, and develop co-marketing activities with them. Some of those can include things like potential OEM deals with the hardware so there will be plenty of opportunities in the future to get involved in that sort of thing.
Have you encountered any initial scepticism from developers, and if so what have you done to quell this?
What’s interesting is that what tends to happen is people come with very open but possibly sceptical minds, but when they experience it they realise that actually amBX is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ambient experiences in general. The home can become an entertainment centre in itself, and when people realise they see that the convergence of technology with amBX lets them explore a vision of the future that is really possible, with the convergence of digital living and games machines and home theatre.
We are working on the home theatre solution for amBX and hope to have that available in a few years. Suddenly everything is sitting in the same place, so it’s more than amBX-enabling one game. While the user base does not exist now, it will exist in the future – developers are innovators and if they adopt an innovative technology early then they become known as even more innovative.